Henry Bloch delivers a blockbuster
For the third-ever graduating class of Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars), it was a night to remember.
Even for entrepreneurs bursting with potential, who had spent a year in the company of top business experts, it isn’t every day you get to hear from a legend.
The e-scholars had completed a rigorous 12-month certification program and had their ideas and plans evaluated by some of the best in the business. Many of them were poised to start up a business of their own design with some seed money and encouragement.
But things got ratcheted up a notch when Henry Bloch himself walked to the podium.
The audience had started their journey a year earlier as eager applicants, intrigued by the offer of support and resources and the chance to launch successful business ventures. The Entrepreneurship Scholars Program, offered by the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is a community-wide program designed to prepare brilliant and promising entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge needed to launch world-class ventures upon graduation.
The applicants had come from the Bloch School, from throughout the UMKC campus, and from the community.
During their year in the program, Henry Bloch had become a familiar and welcome fixture in classes and at campus events, always ready with a thoughtful question or a timely suggestion.
This night, instead, he gave his audience a blockbuster of a talk.
He began by deflecting all the thanks and praise to Dr. Teng-Kee Tan, Dean of the Bloch School; the faculty and staff, and the students for being the hardest-working bunch he had ever seen. He complimented Kansas City’s business community for helping refine the Bloch School’s vision and direction.
Then he got to the heart of his message: “I envy you,” he said to the students, “because you are graduating at a very exciting moment in our history.”
He wove the theme of conquering a mountain through his remarks. Describing these times as “the dawn of entrepreneurship,” he compared the students’ journey ahead to scaling a magic mountain – a trek for which they are well-prepared. He mentioned specifically their willingness to learn new things, their readiness to toss out obsolete ideas, and their ability to turn on a dime.
“Modern miracles” he cited – space travel, personal computers, instant communication – were not part of his formative years; but they came from the minds of forward thinkers.
“That’s why I envy you,” he went on. “Your turn is now at hand. As a retired CEO… I can tell you the view from the top is pleasant and satisfying. But the never-to-be-forgotten excitement, the fun and challenge, is in the climb.”
At this point, Bloch turned to the ethics and values on which he built H & R Block, and that will persist:
•The quality of your early work determines your future – so start with quality.
•Don’t try to get by with the minimum – give more than people expect of you.
•Listen – if your customer did not thank you, don’t think him rude. It’s possible you failed to do a satisfactory job.
•You will make mistakes; just make sure you don’t repeat them.
Bloch reminded the audience that it is the habit of thinking things through – not necessarily the information at hand – that will serve them well. Data is fine, he said, but we need to be thinkers; remembering is no substitute for analyzing.
“Success doesn’t fall in your lap,” he said. “You must chase it…but never quite catch it.”
Perhaps his wisest words were reserved for what has become a perennial problem among 21st century executives: “Don’t damage the value of your name or hurt your image for any amount of money.”
Details of the E- Scholars program can be found online. Scholarships are available to all accepted applicants and will cover the majority of program costs. The only out-of-pockets costs for participants will be fees to enroll in one-credit hour course per semester (three semesters total).